Thursday, June 12, 2014


So it's been a while (a year) since I've posted on here. My senior year of college kind of took up all of my time and I wasn't able to post anything. Since my last post I've competed in several Quidditch tournaments, including World Cup VII, graduated from the University of Florida, and been accepted into UF's St. Petersburg campus for pharmacy school starting in the fall. However, I want to talk about this past weekend.

Team Flag

The one weekend that I always look forward to in the year is the one that contains the Students with Diabetes (SWD) national conference. Every year the conference gets better and better. This year was no exception. Honestly, I would probably enjoy the weekend if it was just a bunch of us SWDs hanging out and there weren't any talks or any real plan. Obviously, that isn't the case and the talks make the weekend even better.

Jim Turner talking about life and diabetes.
"You think it, you go there and you be there."
On Friday night we were split into groups and had to come up with a team flag and a skit based on a topic we were given. My groups became the "Diavengers" and developed a skit based around the topic of "perks of having diabetes." While at first we couldn't come up with any ideas we ended up getting to the idea of getting through airport security faster and being able to carry a gatorade through security in case your BG goes low. Being that we were the "Diavengers" our skit involved the Hulk getting a low BG in line for security. Needless to say he got angry. It was pretty fun and mostly made up on the spot, which made it more entertaining. After everyone's skits actor Jim Turner told us some interesting stories of his life with diabetes. Low BG dreams can be interesting.

That night was concluded with a dance party and general social time. After reconnecting with some old friends and making some new ones I was kind of exhausted and called it a night earlier than I normally would have at a conference, but that left me being awake for all of Saturday!

Saturday started with Zumba for those that wanted to go (I am so not able to follow Zumba). After breakfast for me since I skipped Zumba was Mike Lawson bringing the humor to diabetes. His talk had us doing fun things like coming up with phrases for memes like success kid and not sure fry. This talk was followed by the first of two breakout sessions.

For the first talk I chose to go to the one on diabetes in the workplace and insurance with Tom Boyer as our speaker. I learned about some things I didn't even know we're happening. Apparently there was a bill in California that recently died on the assembly floor that was trying to charge people for sharps containers every time they bough lancets or needles. There are similar bills in New York and Rhode Island that haven't yet been defeated (to my knowledge).  The California bill was defeated because due to the help of advocates! I also learned that there is a high potential for discrimination against PWD in hiring, which is why some will not mention they have it until after being hired.

The next breakout session I went to was a talk on exercise.  rian Fee gave an excellent talk on endurance and managing BG levels while exercising including using such things as Clif Energy Shot Gels and Chews as well as using Nuun in water instead of drinking Gatorade to replenish electrolytes. I also learned that an optimal starting BG for working out is somewhere in the range of 120-145 mg/dL and that excercising in an anaerobic zone will increase your BG levels to an undesirable range.  The second speaker of the talk was a personal trainer that had us try out a workout that involves just us and a little bit of room. We completed a workout of 10 lunges, 10 squats, 10 leg to leg lunges (I don't remember what these are actually called), and 10 jumping squats paired with planks and push-ups followed by doing squats along with a song for two minutes and planking for a minute while rolling a ball between people. Completing the solo part of the workout (excluding the song also) would help maintain and even build muscle mass. I feel that I learned a lot from this session and I know I am more inspired to exercise and I hope to use what I learned to improve.
Dr. Ed Damiano on the bionic pancreas

After this session was lunch and the vendor fair. I didn't get much of a chance to talk to the vendors, sadly but I did get my a1c checked during this time and found out it was at 6.1! After this came probably the most anticipated talk for me, the bionic pancreas.

A sample screen view of the bionic pancreas
Dr. Ed Damiano gave a very informative and interesting talk on the bionic pancreas that he has been working on developing and on the process his team has gone through to get to where they are today. He believes that in just 39 months they could have their bionic pancreas on the market! Even if that ends up being a few months or even a year too hopeful, I find it to be very remarkable. Scott Scolnick spoke of his  xperience wearing the bionic pancreas for 6 days and 5 nights. He tried to "break" it by eating some foods that are usually a diabetics nightmare; foods that are full of fat or full of sugar. However, try as he may, the bionic pancreas kept up with as much as a normal one might. He said that he almost felt like he didn't have diabetes anymore. I'm excited for the bionic pancreas and cannot wait to see these next 39 months go by very quickly.

The last talk before we departed for dinner was a talk about risky behavior and diabetes by Joe Solowiejczyk. I learned quite a few things from this speech -most not from the speech but from my fellow Type 1's that were also listening. He asked us questions about how we dealt with the burnout from dealing with diabetes 24/7. He spoke of taking "diabetes vacations" to relieve that burnout. For me I did really understand at first. In the thirteen and a half years I've dealt with diabetes I've never really seen it as having a choice. I took the responsibility of taking care of my diabetes as a necessity like breathing. Yet when these questions were asked most people in the room readily had a response as to what they do. I guess I never really stopped to think about the toll that diabetes takes on us. I usually find some outlet to put any of those frustrations into (e.g. Quidditch, gym). I guess I never thought how other people deal with the daily frustrations of diabetes. I now know some people will take mini vacations and not think about their diabetes. They won't do it for dangerous amounts of time, but enough to feel some sort of relief from the daily "madness." Sometimes it's the little things that also get you through the day. Instead of testing every time some people may just look at their cgm and say "eh, close enough." But it's the feeling that you're more powerful than your diabetes that gets you through.

My fortune cookie from dinner
Since Joe was our last speaker for the day we were off to find dinner somewhere nearby the hotel. We walked over to Westshore Mall and ate at P.F. Changs. We played the "how to bolus for Asian food game" and hoped we were right. After dinner was a Luau at the hotel's pool. More fun times were had here and I really enjoyed being able to connect with more of my fellow Type 1's and getting to know them better. I stayed up pretty late that night talking to friends new and old. When I finally went to my room the bed was so comfortable I practically fell asleep immediately. I was awoken by my roommate Martin saying "Jeremy is your dexcom going off?"  Unfortunately it was telling me I was low, which was odd for this weekend because I couldn't get my blood sugar to go under 200 for most of it (I will forever and always blame those mysterious cookies).

Breakfast! (Probably too much protein)
The next morning I woke up a lot later than the previous one to try to get some of the sleep I missed by going to bed late. After a breakfast of eggs fruit and a Level protein shake it was time for our last speakers. First up was David Joffe talking about diabetes advances. Though I felt that I knew some or even most of what he was telling us this speaker was of particular interest to me because he was doing exactly what I want to do. He has a PharmD degree and is also a certified diabetes educator (CDE). I will be attending pharmacy school in the fall and afterwards I hope to eventually become a CDE.

Our final speaker was Tye Maner who spoke about leadership principles. I feel like though this was the least relevant to diabetes, this was probably the most relevant speech to life. He spelled out leadership with different principles of leadership:
L: Listening to understand and not to just respond
E: Energize and motivate with your leadership
A: take Action! Don't wait for things to happen
D: Develop a purpose (I don't think I fully realized mine until this weekend)
E: Enable others to do their best
R: Reach out and reach back (give to the community and they will give back)
S: Self-control. "You never have to apologize for a thought."
H: Handle human relations well.
I: Integrity. Who you are when nobody is looking.
P: Positive. Life is not fair but it will be what you make it.

Nicole Johnson crowning me Miss America
After Tye's leadership talk, Nicole Johnson, the whole reason these weekends exist, gave some closing remarks. A good takeaway from the weekend was "Diabetes: nobody left behind." As long as we are here for each other we can beat the beetus. We can rely on each other to get us through to the next stage. Whether the next stage is the bionic pancreas, a cure, or some other development our support for one another is what keeps us going and even laughing about diabetes.

The weekend concluded with us saying our goodbyes and "cya next year"s while some us got a bite to eat for lunch before departing back to our regular lives, away from that one weekend a year where we aren't anomalies, but we're the most normal thing in the room.
I must thank Nicole Johnson for creating this unique weekends for us SWDs. I always look forward to this weekend very year now and I hope to be able to attend for many more years. This was my third conference I attended and they all have meant more to me than I can really put in words. I have met so many great people that I hope to stay in touch for many years.

- Keep flying steady

Some pictures of some new friends and some old ones (some photos were not originally mine and actually belong to Libia, Marsha and Alicia):
A crew of us from 2 years ago!
The lunch crew!
My fellow tweeters! (@T1Diabetes101(@JayZelll), @MarshaWeiss03)

1 comment:

  1. Great summary of the weekend! I'm glad you were there, and got to be a part of it all. You being a part of this conference is an asset to those that have never been before, and you encourage them to share and open up about their lives with diabetes. Was great to see you again, and I'm already looking forward to next year. Keep in touch!